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Eye of the Times – Centennial Images of Taiwan
by Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Location: Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Date: 26 Mar - 26 Jun 2011

This year is the centenary of the founding of the Republic of China. As part of a series of events planned by the Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum has organized the exhibition “Eye of the Times – Centennial Images of Taiwan”, and has invited photographer Chuang Ling and Mr Chang Tsang-sang to co-curate the show and select the works. This exhibition features works ranging from precious documentary images taken by Scottish photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) who came to Taiwan in April 1871, to contemporary digital works from 2010. 117 photographers and 271 images of Taiwan will be shown.

Apart from referring to the “mechanical eye” of the camera, “Eye of the Times” also suggests the photographer’s perspective of the world at different times, or even the personal “inner eye” that integrates one’s inner feelings with the images. This is to say that the images both objectively document and subjectively convey the various events, memories and people’s sentiments in different parts of Taiwan during different eras.

The exhibition starts with images of people and landscapes taken by Scottish photographer John Thomson in Kaohsiung, Tainan, Muzha and Liouguei, after sailing from Xiamen to Taiwan in April 1871 to explore and take photographs. This is followed by images from the Qing period (1871-1894), the Japanese occupation period (1895-1948) and the Nationalist era (1949-2011). They show the different nationalities who have lived on this island over the past 140 years, including the aborigines, the Han nationality, the Hakka people, missionaries and recent immigrants. Through subjects ranging from eminent families such as the Lin Family of Wufeng, to ordinary people and disadvantaged groups, they reflect times of great changes or historical transitions, the vitality of local beliefs and the compassion and rebirth during natural and man-made disasters. Through the lens, the photographers document the lives of early Taiwanese and trace social and cultural development, demonstrating their sense of responsibility to the times, their respect for life, their concern for the environment and their desire for progress and a more humanitarian society.

In 1991, our museum included photographs in its items of collection for the first time. With works ranging from the early period to those by leading contemporary photographers, it has built up an important photography collection in Taiwan. Of the 271 works featured in “Eye of the Times – Centennial Images of Taiwan”, 78 are from our museum collection, while 193 are loans. They manifest the essence, development and context of Taiwanese photography and images, including the nativist salon works and the beginnings of “modern photography” in the 60s, the documentary photography and photoreportage of the 70s, as well as the images of the mind, art photography, photo installations and 360-degree digital works since the 80s.

On the occasion of the centenary of our nation’s birth, the brilliant and diverse images from a hundred years that vividly illustrate the lives of ordinary people during times of great transition serve to call up our collective memories, as well as link the experiences and emotions of the past with the present. While reflecting on and defining history, these images also demonstrate the development and diversification of artistic expression, tremendous creative energy and a confident advance towards the technological and digital age.

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